All posts by catiaisabel

What can you learn from fairy tales?

Fairy tales are probably the oldest stories you can read, and everyone knows at least one of them. Many of them were immortalized by Disney, and parents worldwide still put their kids to bed with them.

There are reasons for such success, and as a writer, you should pay attention to them. What can they teach you?

Strong beginning

“Once upon a time…” is the beginning of the great majority of fairy tales. It is strong and involved in magic. It makes you immediately prepared to listen to a magical adventure. It’s catchy! And that’s what you need in a story!

A strong beginning teases the reader and sets the tone for the story he is about to read. On the other hand, a bad beginning can be as drastic as your reader putting the book down immediately.

Characters don’t need to be exhaustively described.

The Prince is charming, and the Witch is evil, but do you get a really good description of them? No, and you don’t need it. Their qualities are enough to keep you dreaming and imagining. The emotional and psychological description is stronger than the physical one.

I do not mean to tell you not to describe your character. Simply don’t dump a lot of physical characteristics at once on your reader. Use the story progress to focus on those. And remember – show rather than tell!


Characters in fairy tales have clear motivations, and the reader knows them from the beginning. There are also clear consequences and motives for their actions.

Motivation and action – that’s what your story needs. An emotionally rich character is not enough, especially if your audience can’t understand them. You must set clear motivations and reasons for them to act the way they do. The audience wants actions and clear decisions based on happenings and personality.

Characters in fairy tales also evolve. The happenings have direct (and obvious) consequences on who they are, and they change due to them. Therefore, your characters also must develop. It is essential that the reader can see and understand their path.

The Dark Side

Fairy tale characters are not perfect, and these stories are not afraid of addressing their dark side – jealousy, envy, and rage. And they taught us that there are people like that! We all can, at some point, feel all those “not-so-good things” – it helps to relate with the characters.

When building your characters, keep that in mind. What are their insecurities and fears? How do they actually see other characters? What do they do when no one is looking? What do they hate? Even the sweet, innocent princess can have a dark side.

Universal Truths

Fairy tales usually focus on big themes, and there are moral lessons to take from them. Many focus on observations on the nature of humanity. Now, you don’t want to moralize your audience. Think of it differently. What do you want to tell with that story? What do you want your readers to think about after reading it? You need to know precisely what you want to transmit to your readers.


I mainly focused on the characters in this text, but the settings are also unique, aren’t they? Beautiful castles and palaces, or magical woods and little cottages that make us dream.

A unique setting can give a special atmosphere to your story and surprise the readers. When creating a story, take some time to decide where it takes place.

Fairy tales are a road map

Fairy tales are the most known type of story, and everyone reads them at some point. The reason for their success is hidden in the details. Studying these details can help you find some guidelines to improve your story, running towards success.


Why write historical fiction? 3 reasons to get you started

There was a time when historical fiction was very trendy. That time has passed, but historical fiction readers are a faithful (and ruthless) audience. Do you like historical novels? Have you ever written one?

We live in a fantastic world. It is full of different places and people and many inspirational opportunities. So, why should you place your novel in the past? Why look for a completely different world?

1. Research is fun!

Writing historical fiction is challenging, especially if you don’t know much about history. Yet, what may seem like a challenge, is, in fact, the fun part of writing historical fiction!

Researching can be fun when you’re doing it for your story (and not because some teacher ordered you) and choosing what you want to know. The research can be inspiring by itself, and of course, you’ll learn a lot with low effort.

You can already have a story in your mind and research the time and place to make it accurate, or you can choose the time and see what ideas you get from your research. It’s totally up to you.

2. Mentally escape

Writing historical fiction can be quite absorbing, and that’s, sometimes, very welcome. You can use your imagination to the full, feel yourself in that place, imagine the smells, the sounds, and how every object you would touch feels like. Like time traveling, but inside your head.

Making your brain escape to another time and place can be therapeutic. You’re not thinking about your problems. Your characters have very different ones. You can even conclude that you’re a fortunate person by living in this century.

3. You can go wild

It all depends on how accurate you want to be to the historical period. Yet, in general, things are very different from nowadays. Some things wouldn’t make sense now, but you could make them happen in a past time with little scientific knowledge.

Sometimes, the characters look too naive, and your audience may say, “No one would believe that.” Well, if it needs some scientific knowledge, and your story happened in 1203… they would.

The research work

The reason to write historical fiction is different from a fantasy novel. You want to go somewhere else and create many stories that would not be possible in your time, but you want them to be realistic.

You want people to relate what they read with their knowledge about that specific time. It would be a nightmare if your readers called you a liar, right?

So, you should be careful with your research. Cross data, look at different places, and try to be as loyal as possible to the time you choose.

Don’t limit yourself to the most obvious places to research. Try to connect with historical societies and meet people online interested in the time you’re exploring. They’ll know everything about it!

Also, don’t limit yourself to descriptions and textbooks. Go to see some art. You don’t need to go physically into a museum (but it would be perfect if you could). You can look online. Observe the surroundings, the objects in the paintings and draws, and the people’s clothes and hairstyles. All these details will help you to build your narrative and enrich your novel.

Choosing the material

Good research will give you tons of information, and no matter how interesting it may be, not all of it it’s relevant to your story. Yet, even if you don’t use it directly in the story, it will always be a good reference for you. Every piece of information helps you visualize your story’s world more vividly.

Focus on the political and social organization of society, including religion. Be aware of this society’s clothing, transportation, house style, and medical knowledge (remedies, common diseases, etc.). Every single detail will make your story more realistic.

History doesn’t need to be boring

Many people relate historical books with the History class we all had at school. That can be enough for you to drop the idea of writing a historical novel.

Yet, let me tell you that it is pretty different. Your novel is not about history but about the story. It is not a list of facts and dates but emotions and relationships.

Emotions are winners

Emotion is that little thing that connects us in a way that no other species seems to be connected. When you write, you want a connection with your audience. Emotions are your better tool to achieve that.

Readers identify with stories through the characters. They live the emotions of the happenings through their feelings. No matter the story’s content, the emotions make the reader relate. They will probably never meet an alien, but they will relate to the fear or fascination your human character feels in a story about aliens.

Character Emotional Development

We are constantly growing in every way possible, but it’s our emotional development that makes us who we are. The same is valid for your characters.

As a writer, you must go beyond their thoughts, and focus on their feelings. Feelings, believe it or not, imply some physical description. Where do you feel your anxiety? How does your body react when something good happens? Those are the universal feelings that make us all relate to each other. Words and thoughts can lie, emotions are real and universal.

It implies long-term changes. Your reader wants to watch a permanent change in the character they learned to love.

The complexity of emotion

A character must grow throughout the story. This growth must reflect in their emotions and emotional reactions. They can also have different emotions, or even change them due to some happening in a scene. However, they need consistency.

Your character is the same from the beginning to the end. They changed, but they are the same person. Their reactions and emotions should be constant. If you want a character to react very differently to similar situations in different parts of the story, you must justify that change. What made them change? Your reader needs to understand.

Emotion isn’t simply action

Maybe it is easier to understand this if you think about a movie. There are action movies that are about precisely that – action. Characters don’t grow much and at the end, you were at the edge of your seat by the action scenes, but… was it a good movie?

A lot of action is interesting and helps distract people. However, if that’s all you have to offer, your reader will eventually get detached and give up on your story. The action you provide must affect your character in one way or another, or your reader can’t relate. The lack of transformation will alienate your audience.

Problems reveal who you are

A person’s true reveals itself when they are in trouble. Or so people say.

Well, whether you agree with this idea or not, in which concerns characters, it is an unsaid law. How they emotionally react to adversity tells your reader a lot about them.

It is not the problem and its solution that make a great scene. It is the growth of your character while all of that is happening.

Stories aren’t scenes put in an order

Our life isn’t a straight line, where everything happens when it should, and we always react in a logical, rational way. So why should your story be?

Your readers are looking for a story that makes them feel something. More than that, they like to recognize themselves in it. When something unexpected happens in your life, you react. After the third time, your reaction will be different. Someone who has had a difficult life will respond to a bad thing in a different way from someone who has had a good life so far. And so should your characters!

These fluctuations and developments are what grab your reader. Yes, great scenes and unexpected happenings are great. Yet, they need an emotional reaction from the character. This is what will give the reader an intense and impactful experience.

Give them what they can’t experience

We like emotions and action, we like to feel in danger and to solve problems. We like transformation. In real life, there is no space for mistakes. There are no second chances when it comes to life-threatening situations. Yet, we like adrenaline.

Your readers look for something in a story they can’t always find in real life. A story is a safe place to deal with danger. It is a powerful emotional experience. So give them what they’re looking for.

Good Characters Make them Care

There are so many things to say about a character’s creation and how it defines the quality of the novel. They are the reason there is a story, so they need to be interesting. But how do you know that you nailed it? When your readers care about your characters.

I’ve often listened to people saying that they like this or that book because it makes them feel things. The character was so sweet, they were scared in that part he was in danger or so happy for her. The character needs to raise some feelings in them. It needs to make them care.

Even the most exciting plot in the world can feel shallow to the reader if you can’t make them care.

What ignites that sparkle?

Most things come down to the question, “How would you feel?” In this case, what makes you care? What makes you feel something? Ultimately, what makes you keep reading? Of course, not everyone is the same, but you’ll immediately have a part of the audience covered this way.

What makes you relate to a person if you try to think about people instead of a character? Maybe they are someone you have known your whole life. You know every struggle, every victory, and every moment, good and bad. That creates a fantastic relationship. But you can’t tell the entire story of your character, right? It is boring, and it will make your reader impatient.

What makes your readers relate to a character?

Each one of us has a different life story and different experiences and feelings about it. So, your readers will not necessarily relate to those things. However, we all go through some similar situations. One way or another, they are part of our lives whether we want them to or not. Let’s start there.

You relate to a person not simply because of who they are or what they are doing, but primarily for what happens to them. So, it is not about the character but the situation. Choose a situation that most human beings can relate to. Then, make your character go through it in the first pages.

Show them the way

Everybody can relate to a sad story, to a bad situation that can happen to all of us. That will make the reader relate, but does it make them care? Not necessarily.

Readers need to be able to identify themselves with the situation, but they want more. Most people read to dream, to make things better, so your character has to make it through those difficult situations. It is interesting, and it gives them hope. We all like a story of resilience. It warms our hearts and makes us feel more powerful.

A resilient character who fights their way to victory is something the reader can relate to and aspire to. Your readers would like to live that life, to be that strong – because all of us, at some point, felt so helpless, and we don’t want to. At this point, there is no return – your reader wants to know what happens next.

We all like a hero

We all had bad moments. General situations that could happen to anyone will make your reader relate to the character, but do not stop there.

They want a hero. They want this character who is apparently like them, but who can solve problems and have an inspirational, out-of-the-ordinary life. The kind they would want to live in. They want magic and hope.

Rituals – Get ready for writing

What makes you feel ready to start writing? Do you just need to sit down and write? Do you need to do something first? Do you need a special place? Do you need to be in a certain way?

Rituals have been part of human history since we know. They consist of a series of actions practiced in a certain way and following a strict order. You perform them before a determinate situation. They are essential to get you in the ideal mindset to do a specific task, and many writers use them.

What’s the purpose?

As I said before, rituals put you in the right mindset to perform a particular task. Concerning writing, it is important to find some inspiration and focus when it is time to start writing.

Having a good writing ritual will help you tremendously. With time, the simple act of performing that ritual will put you on “writing-mode” right away. You’ll be ready to focus on your stories.

The most common writing rituals

There are dozens, even hundreds of possibilities concerning rituals. You can already have one, or you might want to look for the one that has more meaning to you. I don’t think that rituals from other people are ideal. You should find your own way, but here you have some suggestions of the most common rituals to inspire you.

In my case, I don’t follow anything that strange. I need silence, so I sit in a quiet place, preferably at my desk. I first read the emails and see everything I want to see on socials and other places. Then, I start writing. Why? Because when I start writing, I don’t want to be concerned about what I am missing or what I should be doing instead.

Other examples are to take a walk first, to look at a window, to sit towards a specific place, or drink a specific beverage. Anything that you always do immediately before writing can be considered a ritual.

Sometimes you don’t even notice, and you have one. It is so automatic in you that you may not realize it is a ritual. Like drinking tea before you sit down to write. If you do it every day, it is a ritual even if you don’t have in mind that you do it to write. It helps because you teach your body that it needs to be ready to work after that beverage.

Do you have a ritual?

Rituals are not strictly necessary. Yet, they are very helpful in putting you in the right mindset to do your writing. They work as a coffee that makes you focus. For example, reading a particular passage of a book, listening to a piece of certain music, or looking out of a window for a couple of minutes can be all you need to enter the full “writing mode”.

Do you have any rituals? If so, I’d like to hear everything about it.

Your creativity is endless!

One of these days, I was talking with my husband about something our daughter had made. He was surprised about how creative she was. So we started to discuss the importance of creativity in her future life. At some point, he said something like, “It’s good she took to her mom.”

I was astonished by this and said, “What are you talking about? Don’t you think you’re creative?”

“I was. Not anymore.”, he answered, as if creativity could simply disappear out of you. Later, my 6-year-old daughter, who was apparently listening to the conversation, came to me and asked, “What if I stop being creative?”

This question is way scarier than it looks and kept me thinking.

“Creativity is a special sort of internal conversation.” (Seth Godin)

Creativity doesn’t come from an exhaustible source that could dry out at any moment. It isn’t something that simply disappears, but rather something that we stop working with.

In truth, my husband wasn’t the first adult that said to me that he wasn’t very creative anymore. Many adults believe and fear their creativity sold out, or at least, that it could happen at any moment. That’s far from reality, but most adults tend to, indeed, be less creative than children. Why?

What is stealing our creativity?

After realizing that so many adults feel this way, one question remains: why?

What happens in our minds while growing up that ends up with us not feeling so creative? There are a couple of theories.

Fear of being ridiculous

As we grow up, we gain self-conscience and get too conscious of ourselves, other people, and judgments. As a result, a kid’s freedom in doing whatever comes to mind is lost, and society molds us to fit a particular pattern.

Unfortunately, that pattern isn’t full of creativity. For example, drawing is a children’s activity unless you’re the next Da Vinci. And the same kind of thought goes on and on in any artistic activity.

This is a very good and logical explanation, but is every creativity connected to art? And, what’s art?

As a writer, I heard many times, “Oh, I used to write when I was a teen.” The tone is critical and often followed by “But I need to work now.” Perhaps these sentences have something to do with that feeling. This doesn’t make us feel very comfortable, does it?

Lack of practice

When you think about a muscle, you know you have to exercise it to make it better. It doesn’t go away by use. It improves. The same happens with mental activities, like creativity.

Finding different solutions for your problems will help you keep that little creative spark active and ready to act.

Being creative is not connected (not only) with the so said artistic activities. You can be creative in almost every activity of your day. Sometimes you are, indeed, being creative, and you don’t even notice.

Even if you consider you aren’t being creative at all, keep in mind: it didn’t go away, you’re simply not using it!

Lack of opportunity

Most adults consider their jobs boring and with zero opportunities to be creative or think outside the box. If you are one of those, remember that your life is more than your job. There are still other opportunities to develop your creativity. Don’t allow yourself to be limited by others.

It didn’t go away

Many people still look at creativity as something that can turn away from you. Writers and artists of many sorts fear the day their source will dry out.

The good news is: it doesn’t. You may have bad days, days when you’re not feeling that well, but they will end eventually. So put your fears aside and keep working.

Why can’t I finish my novel?

You just had a good idea for a plot, and you start writing your story. Yet, at some point… it seems to reach a dead end. Perhaps, you’re not as passionate about it as you were before.

Why does that happen? Wasn’t your idea good enough? What are you missing?

I’m stuck

It often has nothing to do with the story. You still are passionate about it, but procrastination wins you. You’ll continue tomorrow. You find a lot of things to do, a lot of excuses. When you go back, if you ever do, those lines don’t make much sense anymore.

Despite its importance and how it impacts your writing, it is not about procrastination that we’ll talk about in this post. Instead, it is about to get stuck. Sometimes a tiny mistake prevents us from continuing. A page, a line, or even a word that doesn’t feel right…

This may happen because you didn’t plan the novel or, instead, you planned too much and killed that flame inside you. As a result, you miss the passion and intensity of discovering your own story as you’re writing. So, maybe, your issue is to know which one works better for you. It is time to find out.

Two main issues

There are usually two situations responsible for this feeling of getting stuck. They are the usual suspects when you can’t finish your story.


Revising your text is hell sometimes. It will never be exciting, but you don’t need to make it harder than it should be. It is not supposed to destroy your story. If you’re feeling that, then stop what you’re doing! Something is wrong.

It can be the story, of course, it may have flaws, but probably you’re just being too much! Stop, take a deep breath, and start over. Then, perhaps, ask someone to read it and give an opinion. A fellow writer would be a good choice.

Now, to make sure that you’re doing it right, ask yourself: is the story getting better? Yes? Great! Then, the whole revision process, as tiring as it is, will, in the end, fulfill you with a sense of accomplishment.

One last piece of advice on this: don’t try to revise before finishing the story. That’s usually a bad idea. However, if you really feel the need to do it, then follow this simple rule: if it is to improve a point in the story, then do it. On the other hand, if it is only in your way, keeping you from writing the rest of the story, stop yourself and keep writing.


Some authors plan their stories as they go, while others are careful planners. The last ones take a long time to decide on every detail before they start writing. Both methods are correct, but you can’t use both. At least, not at the same time.

You need to know what kind of writer you are. If you’re a planner, you’ll get stuck with no plan. If you’re not, planning will be boring, and you’ll feel like losing time. Eventually, you’ll lose all interest in your story.

There is no right and wrong; it is a matter of preference. Find out how you work better. Try both if you don’t know yet, maybe with a short story first, so you don’t lose so much time.

Old Writing

Many of us have a lot of old writing lying around. Journal entries, ideas with no context, scenes without a story, story beginnings, and so many other pieces of writing. Something that made sense to us at the time but was left aside.

Does this mean you were stuck? What to do with it? It depends! You can do nothing. If they stopped making sense, why do you have to do anything about it?

If there is an idea that still makes sense and you want to, then pick it up, read it and start writing again. You can start where you stopped. You can rewrite everything, change some things… It is up to you. Your creativity is endless! Besides, even if you end up with nothing, it is worth it. Experience and practice is the only way to improve your writing.

How to overcome?

What drives you is motivation. It is what makes you start a story, and the lack of it makes you stop writing. Take a moment to remember your motivation. What led you to write that story in the first place? Why did you want to write it?

The best way to overcome your procrastination or lack of motivation is to move on. There is something at that point that you don’t like, it is okay; keep writing. Later you can go back and find a better solution. If there isn’t a significant hole in the plot, it won’t be a problem.

Keep in mind: writing should be fun. If it’s not, then stop and find out why.

Less Pressure, Better Writing – my personal experience

“Less Pressure, Better Writing.” Sounds obvious, right? But who among us can say that you practice what you preach? Not many, I’m sure.

When you’re trying to be a writer (or any other profession for what matters), you put additional pressure on your shoulders. Besides the obvious one that you have to provide for yourself and your family. The bills can’t wait for you to be a renamed author, and you start to feel ‘the pressure of real life’. The anxiety grows inside you while the blank page in front of you… remains blank.

Today, I’m not giving you any advice, nor trying to tell you what you should do or how to deal with any problems. Instead, I just want to share a bit of my own recent story.

Keep trying

I am one of the few fortunate people who have someone by my side, always motivating me. Motivates me to believe in myself and fight as much as possible to get what I want. So, one day I quit my job and came home to write. All-day.

The first months were amazingly productive. So many things in my head to put down on paper! But that feeling of accomplishment slowly vanished. Other problems became more relevant – and an obstacle to writing. Writing is not a very well-paid job (if it is paid at all), and small children (I have one of those) don’t give us much time either. So, a decision had to be made.

I wasn’t sure of what I should do. I definitively needed to find a job, but when would I write? With a full-time job and my baby girl and all other responsibilities in life I couldn’t ignore, I would be forced to give up. Or so I believed.

Made it a pleasure, not a job

Then I was confronted with a sweet reality. Do not have the obligation of writing made me more relaxed regarding it. That allowed me to write more than I thought. Those 5 minutes between finishing my job and picking my baby at school are somehow more productive than an entire hour sitting in front of the PC with the single purpose of writing.

I don’t force myself to write and still write every day. This might not be the path to be a successful writer, but it brought back to me the true joy of writing. In my case, that’s what I needed.

Just be… a writer

As I said at the beginning of this post, I’m not trying to give you any advice or tell you how to behave. I wanted to share this to let you know that there is hope.

I now have a job as a writer (content marketing writing) that I love, aside from having my own projects. I’m a writer not because of my job but because I write, regardless the results of my writing. Things are not always perfect, but feeling good… is priceless.

Description – what to do and what to avoid

The description is an essential part of your story. It will allow your reader to visualize your scenes and your characters. You can make them smell and feel whatever you want them to. But, most importantly, a good description enriches your novel.

However, sometimes, it can backfire and make your story… boring. Who never read a book where you have pages and pages describing a few objects? They are boring, and no one cares about so many details. An example I like to give is a Portuguese writer, a classic and significant one we all study in high school: Eça de Queiroz. He took around ten pages to describe… a door! Yes, now, you can imagine how happy all Portuguese teenagers are about reading his work, right?

Now, you definitely want to provide your readers with a good description. Yet, you can’t bore them. So, here you have a few essential tips for doing it right.

Include it within your story

Lots of descriptive sentences, separated from the scene you’re telling, will become incredibly dull. Imagine stopping the action and start describing the chair where the character sat down. Is it something you would like to read?

I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t describe the chair. I’m only stating that you should try to mix the description into the action. Describe one or two characteristics while you keep telling what’s happening. For example, your character sits on… give a general characteristic of the chair to describe it. Next, imagine your character looks down. He could notice something, a detail you want your readers to know about.

This way, they will visualize it quickly, and they won’t even notice!

Keep it simple

Many pretentious words, as if it is some kind of decoration for your story, will not work near the readers. They want to visualize what you’re describing, so you don’t want to put an extra intellectual effort into them.

Keep it simple and appeal to their imagination. But remember, simple doesn’t mean generic. Otherwise, your story will look too shallow.


Don’t force a description on paper, only because it’s needed. Don’t start by writing the biggest number possible of beautiful, meaningless words, trying to build something from them. First, imagine the local where your scene is taking place. Visualize it in your head without criticism. Then try to put it on paper, the best you can!


Reading appeals to your imagination and experiences. Your readers will visualize your scenes according to their experience. Therefore, it is useless to describe an object meticulously, beyond extremely boring.

Provide your readers some clues on how things and people look like between the action. Let them use their imagination and finding out how a character, an object, or a place looks like at their own pace.

Revising: is it not done yet?

After the most intensive – and exciting – creative work, other steps follow. Unfortunately, for most writers, they aren’t that fun.

Revising is a significant one, and many times it becomes harder than it has to be. Why? Due to the lack of organization.

Planning from day 1

After months (sometimes years) of hard writing work, many writers end up with a messy first draft. This happens because of the lack of planning. For many authors, the creative flow is too important, so they write freely without much care. This is one way of doing it, but it will make it much harder to revise your work later.

If you plan the story, it will be a lot much easier to work on it. Then, you go through all the plans you made again. Check for inconsistencies or whatever you don’t like and want to change.

There is still time

If you are in the middle of the writing process and don’t have a plan, you must take a step back and create one now. Sounds strange? Well, I can guarantee you that it will really help you out.

Start by writing down the structure of your novel in a simple global way to access it quickly. Then, step by step, add more details until you have a general vision of your book. Once you have it, you’ll catch the first ‘mistakes’ or things you don’t like that much.

After you have an idea of what needs to be changed, make a copy of your draft (so you can go back if you want) and start working on this second copy.

Repeat the whole process until you’re totally satisfied with your novel. No matter if that means doing this 2 times or 20! Try to enjoy the process, and it will be easier than you think.

Making your life easier

Writing, revising, editing – it is hard work. But, as a writer, you can’t always afford to lose time, so good planning is vital to improve your process.

You can easily get lost among the 300 or 500 pages of your novel. An obvious structure with the most significant happenings of the story organized is of great help to ease your work.

Without good revising, you have a draft, not a novel.